Category Archives: Life

Entering the Rest of God

We live in a Psalm 46:6 age: “The heathen raged; the kingdoms were moved.” Besides the turmoil and uncertainty we see nationally and internationally, many of us deal with personal difficulties in our health, finances, and relationships. Let’s face it: serenity is hard to come by in the 21st century! These extreme pressures are nothing new. The apostle Paul experienced stress too. He expressed it, “Our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side: outwardly there were fightings, inwardly there were fears” (2 Corinthians 7:5).

Yet, in the midst of difficult times, the Lord has promised rest of soul to His people. Hebrews 4:9 tells us, “There remains, therefore, a rest to the people of God.” So, how do we obtain it and then hang onto it?

Rest starts in the spirit and emanates outward to the soul. As we learn to connect with the Holy Spirit, we do experience more rest of soul, but on the other hand, we must also discipline the soul to be quiet and then to stay quiet, so that our spirit-man can connect with the Lord.

It takes deliberate determination to set aside the urgent things clamoring for our attention and to focus on Jesus. We all know this, for we are well acquainted with the story of Martha and Mary, in Luke 10:38-42. Martha was burdened down and troubled about many things. Her soul had no rest. But Mary, who didn’t allow immediate urgencies to keep her from sitting with Jesus, did have inner rest. Ah, this can be such hard work, though! Hebrews 4:11 says, “Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest ….”

Our soul, which involves all our natural abilities, thoughts, emotions, and instincts, tends to be in conflict with our spirit, which desires to come into God’s rest. The soul insists on fretting and trying to fix problems on its own. Therefore, our spirit must fight to gain the ascendancy, to subdue the natural tendencies of the soul.

We must force ourselves to step away from the issues of the day, small or great, to enter the pavilion of the Lord’s Presence. Worship can be a point of entrance into that place. So can meditating on a comforting Bible passage. These avenues quiet our soul so that our spirit can commune with the Holy Spirit.

Many ardent Christians are fretting at the soul level about the increasing wickedness about us, wondering how to fix it. However, as we sit in God’s Presence, inquiring of Him, He takes charge of our circumstances and begins to work change in them. He gives us insights on how to pray into problems to achieve the right solutions. Even when those solutions don’t come quickly, He gives us an abiding confidence in Him while we wait. Hebrews 4:10 tells us, “For he who has entered into His rest has also ceased from his own works, as God did from His.”

Here are a few Bible passages which will help you begin to enter the rest of God. Read and ponder them, and use them as springboards to prayer:

Psalm 46:10Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the heathen; I will be exalted in the earth.

“Father, help me to be still before You, to see and know Who You really are. Whenever I become fearful about the crazy things going on in the world, help me to remember that You are still in charge and that You have promised to be exalted in the earth.”

Isaiah 30:15, 16, 18For the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, says, “In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and you would not.”

But you said, “No! for we will flee upon horses” (therefore you shall flee) and, “We will ride upon the swift” (therefore shall they that pursue you be swift).

Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you. For the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all those who wait for Him.

“Father, please forgive me for being so insistent on solving my problems on my own, instead of looking to You. Help me to rest in quiet confidence in You. I ask You to be my strength and my problem-solver from now on. Thank You for waiting patiently and graciously for me to yield my circumstances to You. I put these things in Your hands and receive the blessing You have promised to those who wait for You.”

Matthew 11:28-30Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavily weighed down, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls: for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.

“Lord Jesus, I am coming to You now, just as You have invited me to. I receive Your promise of rest. Please take all my burdens and strivings. I want to sit with You and learn of You. Teach me to move and work with You, so that I can carry life easily and without anxiety.”

As you diligently seek to come into God’s place of rest, may He bless you with an abiding peace in your heart which is unshakable.

Dining on Prison Swill

ball and chainRecently, I had a short dream in which I saw prison keepers in a dungeon-like setting, who were eating “the prison diet.” This meant that they were eating the same poor-quality food as the prisoners whom they were guarding.

After pondering the dream and praying into it, I understood that the prison keepers represented any of us who, in our minds, hold other people under lock and key.  We do this by having attitudes of unforgiveness, offense, jealousy, envy, and criticalness. We may feel justified in doing so, because in many cases those whom we mentally hold in prison really did something that was wrong.

But by holding such grudges, prison keepers end up in the same bondage as the prisoners. They become like them, not enjoying the goodness which God meant for them to enjoy — hence, the picture of them eating the prison diet.

If we want to live in the freedom which God intends for us, we have to let those whom we have “locked up” in our minds go free. In giving freedom, we receive it.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Jesus told us, in Matthew 5:44, to bless those who curse us and pray for them who despitefully use us. What we dish out to others is what we end up eating ourselves.

The Season of Sifting (Part 1)

sifterSome time ago, I wrote a series meant mainly for intercessors, called Knowing Your Seasons of Prayer. Today’s post is about a more general season that any believer might go through — the season of sifting.

We can encounter a sifting season in a couple of ways. The first type involves us being sifted directly and personally. The Lord allows us to go through testings and trials to see how we will respond under pressure. He already knows what we will do, but we must still live it out experientially, or it would not be real and would not profit us in any way.

Job is the most prominent example in the Bible of this kind of sifting. In Job 1:8 and 2:3, twice we see God initiating a conversation with Satan: “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” The devil did not come up with the idea to afflict Job all on his own; God deliberately brought Job to his attention! Why did He do that? So that He could prove Job through severe testing and display him as a shining example of integrity to inspire believers throughout many centuries to come. God received glory through Job’s triumph over his troubles — but Job also received eternal honor from this episode in his life. God knows how to compensate His beloved saints for the trials they go through.

Peter was also sifted. Although he intended to do the right thing, he trusted in his own power to stay faithful to Jesus no matter what. Jesus gravely informed him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you like wheat: but I have prayed for you that your faith would not fail, and when you are converted, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31, 32). Unlike Job, Peter did not pass his test, yet in tender mercy, the Lord used Peter’s failure to teach him to lean upon the Lord’s grace, instead of glorying in his own integrity. The outcome was a far better Peter than ever would have existed without the test.

King Hezekiah was tested more than once by the Lord to see what he would do under pressure. In the matter of the Assyrians attacking Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32:1-23), he made all the right choices. He trusted the Lord with all his might, assured the people that God would act on their behalf, and prayed the situation through until they saw an undeniably miraculous deliverance. God also supernaturally healed him of a terminal illness, in response to his prayers. But his heart became proud, and he did not give God the gratitude which was due. Although he repented and humbled himself, when Babylonian ambassadors came for a visit, “God left him, to try him, that He might know all that was in his heart” (v. 31). Passing one test does not mean we have arrived and we’re done. The Christian life is a bit like a video game: succeeding at one level just means you get to do it again at a new level — with different circumstances to conquer.

When we go through a season where God either sifts us directly or uses circumstances, our own carnal appetites, or even the enemy of our souls to try us, His ultimate purpose is to refine us by driving us to the realization that we cannot manage on our own, and that our complete dependence must be placed in Him. The crux of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden was a desire to be self-sufficient and independent from God. Ever since then, the Lord has been working to bring us back into alignment with Him — and that alignment demands acknowledgement that we are helpless without Him. Whether we learn to cleave to the Lord in the midst of a trial, and thereby pass the test, or whether we fail miserably and learn dependence through the experience, the goal is the same — that we will become yielded, humble people, free of the rebellious nature, people who are transformed into the likeness of Jesus.

So that’s one type of sifting season. Next time, we’ll examine the season where we are the ones doing the sifting.

 

Angels in Charge

Today, I’d like to share a story which illustrates God’s supernatural intervention on behalf of ordinary people who belong to Him.

My family and I were on our way to an eagerly anticipated revival service at our church. We stopped at a busy intersection with a particularly blind corner — a light pole on one side and a fence on the other. In order to see the traffic coming from both directions, it was necessary to pull a few feet past the stop sign.

As we waited our turn to cross the intersection, to my sudden alarm, a driver turning left onto the street where we were stopped cut his turn way too sharply. He had not noticed until it was too late that he was turning directly into the path of another vehicle, and he was making a last-second, desperate (but futile) attempt to avoid a collision. Of course, there was no time for us to back up and get out of his way. We just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The oncoming car did not have time to stop, and smacked the left-turner broadside, spinning him around. As they crashed and spun, I tensed and shut my eyes, fully expecting that we would be caught up in the accident as well.

It took a few seconds to realize that the impact never came. We had heard the squeal of the tires and the screech of tearing metal, and thought we were part of the collision. When I opened my eyes, one of the cars was resting just a few inches from our front bumper. My husband got out and walked about, looking for damage to our vehicle. We were completely untouched.

It was then that I noticed our position. Before the accident, our car had been nosed out in front of the stop sign. Now we were resting about fifteen or twenty feet behind it. We gazed at each other in amazement, realizing that we had just experienced God’s supernatural protection. If our car had remained where it had been, the driver’s side of our vehicle would have been struck with violent force, and we could have been hurt badly.

We realized that there was no logical explanation for our deliverance other than that God’s angels had moved in, picked us up, and put us down just far enough back to keep us out of harm’s way. Truly, we had experienced firsthand the promise in Psalm 91:11, 12: “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands, so that you do not dash your foot against a stone.”

Do you have a story of God’s miraculous intervention in your life? Why not build the faith of others by sharing it as a comment?

Clearing Out the Filters

strainerHave you ever had what you thought was an innocent conversation with someone, only to have the person turn around a few days or weeks later and accuse you of having said this and that — things which you never for a moment meant or thought you had said? The person who so grossly misunderstood you had a filter in his mind that was distorting the information.

We all have filters to some degree, and what we hear and see does not get to us without passing through those filters. They might be insecurity filters, rejection filters, fear filters, low self-worth filters, or even cultural filters. We could call them strongholds.

Where do filters come from? They are gradually built into our thinking, often through hurts and disappointments we have endured. They are constructed by a partnership between the enemy of our souls and our own unguarded thinking. The devil injects wrong thoughts into our minds when he sees a weak spot in us or a hurt to be taken advantage of. If we cooperate with those injected thoughts by latching onto them and agreeing with them, we’ve got the beginnings of a stronghold, or filter. Over time, the filter becomes more and more plugged up, so that less and less gets through to us in its original, unmuddied form. Our interpretations of what is going on around us become increasingly inaccurate — skewed.

It is difficult to recognize when a filter is affecting our thinking. We sincerely think we have heard or seen correctly. So, we get offended with people who meant no offense. We think we are operating in discernment about others’ motives. People become hesitant to  interact with us because of the backlash. And we wonder why we feel like the tail, instead of the head. A filter will also affect our ability to accurately hear and see prophetically. What a mess!

There is a way out, and it begins with frequently asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to us any areas of darkness in our minds. You might feel squeamish about asking Him to reveal problem spots to you. I know I do! But He is faithful to help us if we are willing to hear Him. 

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). The main truth we must know is Jesus Himself, Who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), but knowing Him allows us to come into all truth, including being able to recognize strongholds (filters) in our thinking which oppose His truth. So, as we ask Him to search us, He begins to point out to us where the filters are and how they are at work against us.

Recognition of the problem is half the battle. Once you understand that your thinking is influenced by a particular issue you suffer under, you can ask God to bring it to your attention whenever you fall into skewed thinking in that area. He will be faithful to do so, and you will develop a habit of recognizing false thoughts more quickly as they arise. And once you can recognize a false thought at work, you can deal with it. God shows us how, in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not soulish, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds), casting down imaginations and every high thing which exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity, to the obedience of Christ.

Let’s look at what we can learn from those verses. First, we recognize that we don’t have to indulge or put up with every thought that goes through our mind. Truthful thinking versus darkened thinking is spiritual warfare, and God is mighty on our behalf to help us win the battle. The moment we identify a thought or imagination which does not line up with God’s thinking, we must determine to stop it in its tracks. We dethrone it, so to speak, and bring it as a captive of war to Jesus. (I like to envision it as lassoing that thought and bringing it to Him. “Here, Lord Jesus. I caught another one trying to horn in on our territory!”) We then realign our thoughts in obedience to what the Word of God says. For starters, Philippians 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 are great verses to thoroughly know and realign our thoughts to.

Getting rid of filters in our minds is a lengthy process, but we can all succeed if we want to, because the Holy Spirit is eager to assist us. Remember that most of them weren’t constructed in a day, so it will take time to demolish them, too. It may be an uphill climb at times, but it is worth pressing in to accomplish. As we do so, the gunk will gradually be cleared out of the filters (like opening the holes in a plugged-up sieve), so that we can process what we see and hear more accurately. Eventually, filters can be completely wiped out.

If you would like to be free of filters which have plugged up your thinking processes, please pray with me:

Dear Father in heaven, I want to see and hear things from Your vantage point. I want to be free of attributing wrong motives to other people, which aren’t even really there.  By the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me, please help me to recognize the strongholds or filters in my life which must be cleared out and demolished. Help me to recognize every thought which is not in agreement with You, and to bring it captive to Jesus.  Give me a renewed mind, which thinks like You think. I ask it in Jesus’ Name.

Part B

Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.Proverbs 13:12

Oak treeFor those who are discouraged and seem stuck in “hope deferred, heartsick” circumstances, I want to encourage you today. I’ve sometimes heard people who were living in a lengthy time of waiting repeatedly quote the first part of this Scripture. However, this verse has a Part B: “BUT when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.”

God always has a Part B ending to the trials and disappointments He allows us to pass through. He does not intend to leave us forever in the “hope deferred, heartsick” state.

Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David all experienced having their hopes get to the point of looking pretty bleak, but at the appropriate time, God brought their desires to fulfillment. Psalm 105:19 says of Joseph, “Until the time that his word came, the word of the LORD tried him.” We could rephrase that, “Until the right time for his promise to be fulfilled arrived, that promise tested his faith.” But the trial ended, and his expectation received its answer.

Abraham waited twenty-five years for Isaac to be born, but Hebrews 6:15 tells us that “after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” Hebrews 6:12 exhorts us to persevere too, that we might “through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

In the New Testament, a disciple named Aeneas waited eight years to be healed. It must have seemed like an awful “hope deferred, heartsick” kind of existence. But he received his healing in due time, and all the people in two entire towns gave their lives to Jesus as a result. His healing also brought in his harvest. (You can read his story in Acts 9:32-35.) 

Do you have a long-standing promise from the Lord? A desire of the heart which has endured, and yet it looks like its fulfillment will never come? Part B of Proverbs 13:12 says when the desire comes, not if it comes.

Your hope will not be deferred forever. Encourage yourself in the Lord, as David did, by remembering His past faithfulness to you and by meditating on what the Bible says about His faithfulness. If you need some help finding the  verses you need, I’ve compiled some for you at my website. God’s “Part B” is goodness toward you. Jeremiah 29:11 sums it up well: “‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,’ says the Lord, ‘thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.'”

Continue to expect God to fulfill the desires He has placed in your heart, and you will receive your expected end.

Don’t Waste Your Time in the Prison (Continued)

JosephLast time, we said that being faithful in the small things is necessary if we are going to make the transition from the prison to the palace, as Joseph did (see Genesis 39:20 through 41:44). If we stay close to God’s heart and put Him first, He will give us a good inner sense of how to walk out faithfulness, no matter where we currently are.

Besides serving the jailer with excellence, what else did Joseph do to make his time in the prison worthwhile? Very likely, he kept in close personal communication with the Lord. I doubt if he could have served with integrity if he had not, and without that close relationship, being able to interpret dreams accurately for Pharaoh’s servants, and eventually Pharaoh himself,  would have been unlikely.

We have a hint of something else Joseph did while in prison, found in the story of the king’s butler and baker. Genesis 40:6, 7 tells us that Joseph, in serving these two men, noticed that they were sad. He asked them, Why do you look so sad today?”  That’s an odd question to be asking of prison inmates!  “They said to him, ‘We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it.’ And Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t interpretations belong to God? Please tell me the dreams’'” (v. 8).

Joseph didn’t just perform his designated duties. In the process, he cared about the people he came in contact with. I doubt if most prison workers would be concerned about whether the inmates under their jurisdiction were happy or sad! Joseph offered to listen to the dreams of these two men and to help them with the interpretations. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but if Joseph took the time to converse with and care about the butler and the baker, he might have done the same for the other prisoners as well. He probably knew all their stories  — why they were there and whether they had been justly or unjustly imprisoned.  Because of his own circumstances, he would have had compassion for them.  Suffering will either harden and embitter us, or it will build the heart of God in us.

Now, let’s imagine a little bit. Again, the Bible is silent on what I’m proposing, but as I was talking with the Lord about Joseph’s prison experience, I believe He gave me this insight:

Do you think when Joseph became the prime minister that he forgot about all the prisoners he had come to know? Remember, Joseph had been an innocent victim himself, and he had asked the butler to put in a good word for him when he was restored to Pharaoh’s good graces — but the butler forgot him. After a disappointing experience like that, do you think Joseph just ignored the plight of those who had been imprisoned with him? I doubt it. By this time, Joseph was walking in a level of character maturity that would not have permitted him to be so selfish. It is highly likely that Joseph used his influence with Pharaoh to get some of those other prisoners out of jail, too.

How can we apply these ideas while we are waiting for our own destiny fulfillment?  First of all, it is critical that we not waste our prison time. We can serve, and serve well, right where we are, even if it’s not the ideal situation. We can love while we’re there — encourage, comfort, and listen to others — while we’re waiting. It’s not just about poor us. We’ve got people to care for, which is an eternal work of great value in God’s eyes. In addition, all the faithfulness and giving of ourselves that we do during this time is training for our next level of Kingdom responsibility.

Secondly, when we move from the prison into better times, it’s important to bring others with us. We need to do what we can to lift them into their better place, too. The details of how that works out will be different for each of us, but here are a few ideas:

  1. Use what you have learned in the hard spots to help others through. That’s part of why you went through those difficulties in the first place. “And if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer: or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation” (2 Corinthians 1:6).
  2. Use what influence, insights, and experience you have to help others find their place of serving Jesus.
  3. Don’t sever relationship with people who have come to love you, just because you’ve moved upward or outward — especially when people express a desire to stay connected with you. Whether you realize it or not, some of them may be looking to you as a father or mother in the faith. Don’t abandon your spiritual sons and daughters. Apostle Paul stayed in communication with the churches and individuals whom he had mentored. He prayed for them, too.

May you persevere until you make it from your prison experience into your God-appointed place of service, and may you bear plenty of Kingdom fruit in your process of getting there.

 

Part 1